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from their due, or stretches beyond what his own right and title will warrant bim, to the prejudice of a weaker party. Thus magistrates may appress their subjects, masters their servants, landlords their tenants, and one powerful tenant or neighbour his weaker neighbour. This is a horrid sin in the sight of God, for men to use their power to distress others that are weaker than they. It is a sort of murder, condemned in the sixth command, Micah iii. 2, 3. and of theft or robbery, condemned in the eighth, Ezek. xxii. 7.
13thly, It is broken by partaking with thieves or unjust persons, Psal. 1. 18. and partakers in sin may lay their account to be partakers in plagues with the sinner. Now, par. takers with thieves or unjust persons are,
(1.) All that encourage and tempt them to it: these directly concur to the guilt.
(2.) All that receive or harbour stolen goods, Prov. xxix. 25. Such are all that join with them to hide what is taken away from their neighbours; such as wittingly and willingly take them from them as gifts, or that buy them from them, because they get a round pennyworth; but they are the dear. est ever they bought, if they knew the matter as it is; such as wittingly and willingly receive the profit of them; so the husbands, wives, children, and servants, are guilty of the theft of their relatives in that case. Doubly deceitful and cruel are they who receive the pickeries of children.
(3.) Such as do not hinder it when it is in their power ; when people see a person at that soul-ruining trade, and let them be doing ; certainly know them guilty, and yet will not so much as tell them of it prudently; though perhaps they will spread is to others, and then set their foot on it.
Lastly, This command is broken by unmercifulness to the poor, shutting up our bowels of compassion against them, which locks up the hand from giving them in their need. I shall say two things of it.
(1.) It is a complication of many sins in one. For, [1.] It is a theft, Eph. iv. 28. It is a taking from them what is their due by the law of God: for though we have the right of property in our own goods, the truly poor have a right of charity in them, so far as they need and we can spare.
[2.] It is ingratitude to God, who has given us so much, and yet in that case we will not part with a portion of it,
when he requires it back by the poor, his receivers. It is the Lord himself that asks of us by the poor, and it is horrid ingratitude to refuse him, Mat. xxv. 40, 41.
[3.] It is perfidiousness in the stewardship which God has committed to us, Luke xvi. 10, as if a steward should use all for himself, and starve his master's family.
[4.] Lastly, It is a sort of murder, 1 John iii. 15,—17. For as the fire may be put out by with-holding fuel, as well as pouring water on it; so a man's life may be taken away by denying him the supports of life, as well as by cutting his throat.
(2.) So it brings on a complication of strokes from God. [1.] It is a moth in what a man has, and directly tends to poverty and want, Proy, xi. 24, 25. for what men thus hold together, God in his anger scatters. [2.] It is inconsistent with the love of God, i John iii. 17. and the want of bowels
poor is the want of pure religion before God, Jam. i. ult. [3.] Lastly, As men deal with the poor unmercifully, so they may expect God will deal with them, Prov. xxi. 13. Jam. ii. 13.
Thus I have gone through the duties required, and the șins forbidden in this command, as they occurred. But a tender conscience, in applying of this command in practice, will find much more than what I have said. And when we come to the light of the Lord at the great day, things will be seen required and forbidden in it (I doubt not), that neither you nor I have thought of. Who can understand his errors ? O what need of the blood of Christ, and grace to repent, and turn from our evil ways !
I shall now shut up my discourse on this command with two dehortations.
FIRST, I would dehort all and every one from stealing. Let every one abhor this sin. Let such as have stole, steal no more, but repent. I wish there were no ground to insist on this; but I am convinced that there is. I shall,
1. Offer some motives to press the forsaking of this sin. 2. Consider some occasions of it, and expose them. 3. Point out the remedies against it.
First, I shall offer some motives to press the forsaking of this sin.
1. Consider how shocking it is to natures light, that
teaches us to do to others as we would be done to. So that
2. Consider the reproach of it. How disgraceful a name
3. It quite mars your acceptance and communion with God. The thief excommunicates himself from the presence of the Lord. He may pray to God, but God will not hear him; may come to sermons, but there is nothing for him there but' words of anger. Judas was a thief, and both preached and prayed ; but had no intercourse with God in these exercises. When the thief brings in the stolen goods, God
goes out; and is not that a sad exchange, and are not the things stolen dear wares? And while he enjoys the sweet of it, it is mixed with the vinegar of God's wrath; till he repent, and restore too, if he be able, he can have no more access to God than the murderer while he has his sword in his neighbour's body, or the adulterer while his whore is in his
arms, Jer. vii. 9, 10.
4. Nay, it brings down a curse instead of a blessing. While he swallows down these goods, the curse goes down with it, which will choke him at length. It brings a curse on him, and that he has otherwise, Zech. v. 2,-4. Sometimes it works on his own substance like a moth, and what he has decays, and do what he will he is always poor. Sometimes it works like a lion, so that though he have a full life of it a while by the gains of unrighteousness, yet at length all is swallowed up from him together, either by the hand of God or of men. However, it makes always a blasted, withered soul.
5. Lastly, It will ruin people eternally. The thief is liable to three tribunals. (1.) Of the state, seeing the laws of the land strike against it. Theft is punished with death, how equitably, I shall not say; for there seems to be no propor.
tion betwixt men's goods and lives. Pickery, or small theft, is punished arbitrarily, with disgrace enough. (2.) Of the church: for the discipline of the church ought to strike against it, and they are censurable for it even to excommunication, 1 Cor. v. 11, 12. But it is for the most part so cleveriy carried, that neither church nor state can touch them. But they will not escape. (3.) The tribunal of God, who is a Judge that will not want witnesses to prove the fact which no eye saw, while himself is omniscient, and there is a conscience within men's breast. And therefore I, as a messenger of that Judge, the eternal God, do in his name and authority summon, arrest, and bind over, every stealer, and partaker with stealers, hearing me, or that should be hearing me this day, to answer it before the tribunal of God; denouncing the eternal vengeance of God and everlasting damnation against them, to be assuredly executed against them if they repent not in time. And let the timber and stones of this house, and every one of you, be witnesses to this execution, to be produced when they and I shall stand before that tribunal, i Cor. vi. 9, 10. And O but it is dear bought that is got at the rate of eternal burnings!
SECONDLY, I shall consider some occasions of this sin, and expose them.
1. Solitude, people dwelling alone, which gives them fair occasion to play their tricks. It is marked of that graceless place Laish, Judg. xviii. 7. that they were far from neighbours. Such a solitary place we live in; and readily solitude produces either great saints or black devils, as in other things, so particularly uncleanness and thievery; and therefore the night is the thief's time, because of the solitude of it. It is no small business to keep a clean conscience on a hill head in a glen, or in the black and dark night, where there is an occasion of sinning.
But O consider, that God's eye is on you at all times and in all places! and whatever solitude ye may have to sin in, ye will be called to an account before the throng of the whole world, angels and men, and in broad day-light.
2. Poverty becomes an occasion of it, through the corruption of men's hearts, Prov. xxx. 8, 9. Graceless poor bodies can hardly think but they have a dispensation to steal.
But surely God, who will not have the persons of the poor respected in judgment, Lev. xix, 15. never gave a disa pensation to them to steal, but commands them to be content, and to seek for his sake what they have not, and cannot want. Poor thieves are thieyes as well as others; and I doubt not but it is that which keeps some always poor, Job xxx. 3.-5. It is true, Solomon says, that as his temptation is stronger, his guilt is less than others, Prov. vi. 30; but still he is guilty, ver. 31.; and all that can be expected from this is to have a less hot place in hell than others; and that is but cold comfort.
3. Idleness and laziness, Eph. iv. 20. There is a generation that will not ply themselves, work and win, and they cannot want, and they must steal. They idle away their time when they might be provided as others are, and then the time comes that they cannot want, and they steal from their neighbours what they provided for themselves with the sweat of their brows.
Ye have two sins to account for here, your idleness and stealth; the one will not excuse, but aggravate the other. Ye make yourselves a prey to the devil; and when the devil finds you idle, it is no wonder he puts work in your hands.
4. A fair and easy opportunity meeting with a covetous heart. When there was a wedge of gold lying for the uptaking before Achan, he could not hold in his hands. People that have a mind to steal in such a place, need not go off their own field, or from their own flock, to steal; their neighbours goods cannot be kept from mixing with theirs, and there is an opportunity to the wish of a covetous heart.
But if people would think with themselves, Now, God in his holy providence is trying me, now the devil is waiting for my ensnaring: shall I sin because I have an opportunity? May not God send me to hell then, having such an occasion against me?
5. The smallness of the thing. They think it is but a a small thing the owner may well enough spare that, it will not do him much harm. It is but this and but that.
But be what it will, it will make thee but a thief for stealing of it. And wilt thou sell thy soul for such a small thing? The way of sin is down the hill ; let the devil get in a finger, and he will have in his hand next. He that for a little will sin, will mend his service if the devil will mend his wages. At first perhaps it is but a bit of meat, then a parcel VOL. III,